UEFA Under-19 Championships: Northern Ireland's Joel Thompson sends out defiant message

A picture of Northern Ireland's Joel Thompson
-Credit: (Image: David Cavan)

Joel Thompson has sent out a rallying call ahead of Northern Ireland's Uefa Under-19 European Championship opener saying the hosts are not here just to make up the numbers.

Gareth McAuley's men take on Ukraine on Monday 15 July in the opening match of the eight-team tournament, which is being played in Belfast and Larne. Nottingham Forest man Thompson is relishing playing in front of a home support and sent out a defiant message on the eve of the tournament.

"We're not here to play the games just because we're the host nation, we're here to win," said the former Crusaders man. "You never go into a tournament thinking you can't wait to get to the semi-final, we're here to win, there's no underestimation about that.

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"Every member of the squad is thinking about winning the tournament. Playing at home is something which is going to help us massively. Even when the senior side plays you can see how much the crowd helps them.

"I go along to all the international games, so to be the one on the pitch now and the crowd hopefully helping me and the rest of the team is fantastic. Hopefully they come out in their numbers as it will make a big difference for everyone."

Northern Ireland will also face holders Italy and Norway in Group A. Thompson knows it will be a tough challenge but insisted they will give it their all.

"We were never going to have an easy game in a major tournament," he said. "We played Italy back in September and they just about beat us 3-2. They are probably the best team in our group, we will go and give it our all."

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